The Santa List - Managing Expectations

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It’s that time of year where the kiddo wish lists seem to grow and grow and grow. What are your kids expecting from Santa, parents, grandparents and other relatives? What can we do to manage these lists so that they are reasonable and affordable? How can gift giving fit with family values without leaving the little ones disappointed?

1) Be clear about parental approval.

Make sure your kids know that Santa only brings gifts that parents approve of. They can write “puppy” on the list year after year, but if parents don’t want a dog, it’s not going to happen. There may be a whole host of reasons why parents might not approve of a present – they don’t want their kids having too many video games or technology, perhaps they feel their children have enough of a particular kind of toy and would rather see it distributed to another family. Whatever the reason, remind your kids that Santa is very respectful of parents’ wishes. This is why some kids get iPhones and some kids do not.

2) Set a limit to the number of gifts.

In our family, each child gets one present from the parents, two from Santa and a little gift from each sibling. They know how many they’re getting and we open them in turn from youngest to oldest. No one is searching around for more gifts once their number is up.

3) Have present categories.

Many people get their children a present in each of these categories: something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. If you can find present categories that suit your family, then everyone knows what to expect and there is very little disappointment.

4) Give, give, and give.

In our family, the kids do not expect to get presents from aunts, uncles and cousins. Instead, each family pools the money we would have spent on the other families, and we make an extended family donation to a particular cause or charity. Our feeling is that our kids get enough and it’s important for everyone to work together to give during this season. Doing without in order to give is a good lesson for families.

5) Grandparent gifts.

Grandparents have unique relationships with their grandkids and it’s no wonder they want to spoil the kiddos during the holiday season. I try to encourage grandparents to give children experiences rather than material goods - perhaps paying for swimming lessons or covering the cost of a ballet class. Better still? Spend a special weekend at Grandma’s house. And this goes both ways. My 99-year-old Grandmother has always said “give me time, don’t give me stuff”. She’d take a lunch date before a fancy dust collecting trinket any old day.

How are your kiddos’ lists shaping up? Are you seeing some interesting requests? Does your family have any traditions when it comes to giving presents?